September 14, 2004 07:21:18am
Nader Issues the Anyone-But-Bush Challenge
Many of you have sold your audience on the validity of the anybody-but-Bush position. During the primaries you convinced them that regardless of whichever candidate the Democrats ultimately nominated for president that person would be the only candidate with any legitimate chance of beating President Bush in this fall's election. You told them that the individual candidate's positions on the issues were irrelevant, that any Democrat has to be better than four more years of Bush. Because your audience respects your opinions the vast majority of them are now following your advice and plan to vote for John Kerry.
At the same time, many of you have actively suppressed voices that disagree with the anybody-but-Bush position. In response to that censorship and to all of you who promote the anybody-but-Bush position, I am issuing you this challenge: if Kerry wins the election, give him one hundred days, if he has not embarked on a progressive agenda by the end of that period, admit you were wrong, rejoin the fight for true progressive changes, and replace any editors or publishers who insisted on taking the anybody-but-Bush position - or, drop all pretexts and anything that identifies you with the words progressive and liberal, explain how it's in your best interest to prevent any meaningful changes since they might endanger the marketability of your shtick, confess that your true desire is money, power, and prestige, and admit that you have become just like everyone and everything that you once pretended to oppose.
Of course, I could be wrong. If so, I'll write you another open letter - that will also likely have little chance of publication - to apologize. If Bush wins, you'll be off the hook because there'll be no final real world test for your position - although you'll probably insist that the reason for Kerry's defeat had nothing to do with Kerry himself and everything to do with the progressive candidates and voters who did not buy into your anybody-but-Bush position. Before televising the August 29 protest in New York City C-SPAN rebroadcast a panel discussion on Freedom of Expression and Civil Liberties from a week earlier. Tom Hayden, the former anti-Vietnam War activist, talked about how this year's presidential election would be a referendum on the war in Iraq. It should be, but it won't be. You have helped see to that. This fall some 98 percent of American voters will cast their ballots for the two major party candidates who both favor the war.
Polls indicate that approximately one-half of all Americans now believe the war was a mistake. Yet, you are telling these people to vote for John Kerry instead of voting for candidates who oppose the war. You have thereby missed a major opportunity to help create real change: to break the stranglehold the two-party system has on our democracy by empowering a third-party candidate. Your voices could have helped rally that massive number of anti-war voters behind Ralph Nader or another anti-war candidate, such as Bill Van Auken of the Socialist Equality Party. Instead, you have rallied behind the Democratic Party in holding progressive voters hostage. You have terrified them into following the anybody-but-Bush strategy. You have convinced them that it's the right thing to do. You have successfully defended the status quo by precluding other options.
But, you must certainly already realize this.
Your actions make the sham of this presidential election even more obvious. We, the voters, get to "elect" a pre-chosen candidate from the two big business/big money parties. The winner will then claim that the votes have validated his policies, his past actions, and his party's platform. Apparently, based on your policies, your actions, and your platform, those big business/big money interests are yours as well. Your blurring of the facts to make people believe there's actually a substantial difference between Bush and Kerry has been nothing short of amazing. Both favor the war, the PATRIOT Act, No Child Left Behind, and increased military spending. The only real difference appears to be choosing between our democracy's taking the fast track to oblivion instead of taking a somewhat slower track to oblivion. In either case, we end up in oblivion - and you're helping us get there.
I may be in the minority, but I seriously doubt it, in wanting clear and viable choices in an election. I want a candidate who has actively been working on real improvements to our democracy, such as ending the dominance of the two-party system through the enactment of instant runoff voting and nonpartisan geographic redistricting after every decennial census. I want a candidate who has actively been working on repealing the Taft-Hartley Act in order to help re-empower working class people. I want a candidate who understands that government should be run as a government, not as a business. I want a candidate who looks out for the common good by supporting single-payer universal healthcare, initiatives that realistically address a future when our energy requirements can no longer be met with oil, programs that provide social safety nets, increased protection for our civil, social, and economic rights and equities, and policies that give priority to the interests of people and the environment over those of rampant profiteering. I want a candidate with the insight and leadership to have stood against the Iraq war from the very beginning. Part of the genius of the anybody-but-Bush position is in convincing working class and poor people that the Democratic Party actually represents their interests. You have done an excellent job of downplaying and hiding the evidence to the contrary - just as the mainstream media has done an excellent job of downplaying and hiding the facts that refute President Bush's vast library of lies. Through your efforts few will ever know that Democratic presidents have invoked the Taft-Hartley Act against striking workers some three times as often as have Republican presidents. You have created an image, now accepted by an alarming number of people, that a distinct line separates what you would have us believe were the idyllic years of the Clinton administration and the nightmare of the Bush administration. You have performed this feat in spite of the facts that welfare reform, deregulation of the utilities industries, FCC rule changes that resulted in today's radically consolidated media, NAFTA, the establishment of an official policy of regime-change in Iraq, laws allowing the intermingling of the securities, banking, and insurance industries, and the deregulatory Freedom to Farm Act that destroyed the viability of most small farms were passed during the Clinton Administration. You've obfuscated the facts that under Clinton the continued lax self-regulation of the securities, banking, accounting, and medical industries led to the stock market bubble that destroyed many people's savings and retirements, to the increase in the number of people without health insurance, and to the decrease in remedies for consumer abuse. You've even made it appear that the years of sanctions against Iraq that led to the deaths of some 1.5 million people and served to prevent the development of Iraqi oilfields by anyone other than American companies was somehow a good thing that should have gone on indefinitely.
Instead of working to unite working and poor people around their common interests, you are working to unite working and poor people behind the interests of the two big business/big money parties. Eventually we must stand up for social, economic, and democratic improvements that will make our nation and our world a better place for all people - not just for the ruling elite. Your anybody-but-Bush position prevents such initiatives from occurring - and totally eliminates the possibility that this election will provide a referendum on the war. Whether you accept this Anybody-But-Bush Challenge or not, let's hope that John Kerry is the blatant liar that you would have us believe he is. Let's hope all his Bush-like statements are just ploys for getting elected. Let's hope that, if he is elected, he will then turn an abrupt about-face and initiate a progressive agenda. Otherwise, you just helped elect our second-worst nightmare - which, quite frighteningly, may well be exactly the result you had in mind all along when you helped to further stack the deck against our democracy with your anybody-but-Bush strategy.